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Muslim-Christian Encounters in Masuccio Salernitano's Novellino

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Close textual and contextualized analysis of two novellas drawn from Masuccio Salernitano's mid-fifteenth-century collection of short stories, Il Novellino, shows that, while the tales appear to present antithetical notions of Muslim identity, they also blur the categories of good and evil through often over-lapping positive and negative depictions of both Christian and Muslim protagonists. Both narratives discussed are also set within similar contexts (the guerra del corso, maritime travel, enslavement and ransom, inter-racial sexual relations) and can thus function as partial records of particular fifteenth-century cultural and social experiences. Although Salernitano's narratives have often been read as moralizing tales through which the author sought to expose the vices he perceived in society, as this article seeks to show, much more is at stake. The novellas offer significant insights into mid-fifteenth-century notions of Muslim identity and preoccupations about Christian-Muslim encounters and reflect a panorama of contemporary historical and social realities on a scale and in a fashion that remained unparalleled in the subsequent novella tradition.


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